The Bluestone River begins at an elevation of about 3,500 feet above sea level on East River Mountain, Tazewell County, Virginia. After flowing about 77 miles the river empties into the New River at an elevation of about 1,400 feet above sea level.
Upstream from Pipestem State Park, the river travels through a nearly half mile wide valley with several farms along its banks. About ten miles upstream from the park, the flood plain narrows to nearly nothing as the river enters the canyon. The canyon ranges in depth from about 300 feet to nearly 1,200 feet in the park. About ten miles downstream from the park, the river bottom is inundated by Bluestone Lake.
Human activities may date back as far as 10,000 B.C. The native Americans called the stream "Bigstone River" because of the large boulders present in the stream bed. Europeans first began to explore the region along the Bluestone in the mid 1700's. Subsistence farming has long been the main source of sustenance along the river. Extensive logging was done in the early part of the 1900's. An observant hiker may spy signs of the early inhabitants — log cabins, remains of grist mills, or old railroad ties.
Animal Life Along The Bluestone River
A variety of animals may be found in and
around the Bluestone River due to the availability of water, temperature and elevation differences and the composure of the rocks and soil.
Most species of warmwater gamefish found in West Virginia can be found in the Bluestone River. Sunfish, bass and catfish are usually encountered by the angler. Northern watersnakes, snapping turtles and bullfrogs may be found along the banks of the Bluestone, while wood frogs, spring peepers and chorus frogs carry out their life cycles in temporary pools and puddles. The dusky and seal species are just a small sample of the variety of salamanders living in and around the springs and small streams which feed into the Bluestone.
Fence lizards, northern copperheads and hognose snakes prefer the drier areas such as the shale banks and sandstone cliffs. Eastern box turtles and American toads may be found nearly anywhere in the canyon. About two dozen species of mammals and over 100 species of birds have been identified within the canyon. Common mammals include the groundhog, raccoon and white-tailed deer. Beaver, black bear and bobcats may also be encountered. Louisiana waterthrushes, belted kingfishers and over a dozen species of wood warblers make for an interesting bird list. There are even records of'golden eagles in the canyon.
Geology of the Bluestone Canyon in Pipestem State Park
of years ago this area was part of a shallow sea. Evidence for this is the sedimentary rocks now forming the canyon, as well as various marine fossils. When the mountains were uplifted, the water receded. As it did, it eroded the softer rocks. Eventually, the water reached a more resistant form of rock. This caused the stream to meander until it cut down through layers to another soft section of rock. This action created the level area halfway down in the canyon that has been called a "bench" due to it's[sic] resemblance to that object. This also explains the steep hillsides and steep cliffs making up the terrain of the canyon.
The Bluestone Formation outlined below is made up of red shale with some gray shale and a few limestone layers. A resistant sandstone called Glady Fork Sandstone is responsible for the wide, rolling ridge tops the area. The Princeton Conglomerate which makes up the bench area of the canyon consits[sic] of a resistant sandstone which contains quartz pebbles. The Hinton Formation, which makes up the lower two-thirds of the canyon; contains red and gray-green shales as well as some marine limestone.